Friday, March 26, 2010

Just One Teeny Weeny Criticism...

I recently read a blog post at employersweb about keeping employees in the loop in order to build trust. It was a good post that highlighted the following questions as the ones that employees are most interested in:

1. How is the company doing? It can be motivating to hear that the company is well-managed and doing well when times are good. At the same time, open communication can help employees understand belt tightening measures when times are bad.

2. Where is the company going? If employees don't actively care about this it's because no one has helped them connect the dots about how company direction impacts them personally.

3. How safe is my job? Lots of people are worried about that these days. So why not get it out there in the open?

4. Do the company's values align with my values? Quite a few people don't realize they care about this but you can have a great 'ah ha' moment with your workforce if you help them realize how they're making a difference in the world.

5. Can we trust you? This is the big one, the one that matters more than anything. If the answer is no, you won't be able to trust your employees.

So, like I said, it was a good blog post but I have one eensy weensy nit to pick about the title:

'Employers Must Keep Rank-and-File in the Loop'

See the problem? If you think of your workforce as 'rank-and-file', and approach employee communications with that attitude, what answers might you inadvertently be communicating to the questions listed above?

1. How is the company doing? If one more person in a $3000 suit talks about how we all have to tighten our belts I'm gonna puke.

2. Where is the company going? Nothing to do with me, I just work here.

3. How safe is my job? Yeah, right. They don't even know what I do around here.

4. Do the company's values align with my values? Nice try adding a recycle bin in the break room but I'm not buying it.

5. Can we trust you? Absolutely. We can trust you to look out for number one.

OK, that was a bit harsh for a well-written post that made a lot of great points. But here's the thing: Effective employee communication isn't about being magnanimous. The first step to effective communication with employees is to think of them as business partners.

If you view employees as rank-and-file, how do you think they view you?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Talk Like a German: Ending a Meeting

To continue with my theme of Brevity as the new Courtesy, I have translated some useful phrases for ending a meeting or conversation with a German*:
  • I'm sorry, but I don't believe I can help you any more.
  • I'm afraid I can't help you any more. It would be best if you would talk to Herr/Frau So-and-So yourself.
  • Excuse me but I must now end our meeting. I have something important to do.
  • Would you please now let me continue working?
  • You now have all the necessary information. I can't do anything more for you.
  • I'll give you the telephone number for Herr/Frau So-and-So. Please contact him/her yourself.
*Source: Textbook 'Eismann, Volker (2007): 'Success with Telephone and Office Meetings.'

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brevity: The New Courtesy?

My German father-in-law handed me a book from the 70s called (translated from the German):

'Shorter, More to the Point, More Precise: The New Communication Style of the Modern Leader.'

(Kind of a longish title for a book on communication brevity but it's shorter in German.)

The introduction reads as follows:

''Information was never so important. We live in complicated systems held together by an information net. Distance is irrelevant. People exchange information, sometimes over telephone or Internet, or even on paper. The volume of communication is growing: meetings, memos, messages, notes, emails. We need a new communication style that is shorter, more to the point, more precise. We need a new definition of courtesy that takes other people's time into account."

Two things occurred to me as I read this:

1) The Germans are sometimes considered rude for their curt, direct communication style. Even I think so and I'm used to them. Still....

2) Think of the time that could be saved if people would say what they have to say and be done with it!

Do we create more work for ourselves with unnecesary verbal embellishments and waffling? Can we learn to live without them or are we too sensitive, too fragile, too ready to take offense?

I'm not denying the importance of polite communication in business and social interactions, I'm just not sure what that actually means.

Therefore, for the next month I resolve not to take offense when someone speaks or writes to me bluntly... as long as they keep it short.

*Picture courtesy of Chris Wolf.

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